RedBud is “THE” marquee event in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. Everyone who goes through the gates at the Michigan track knows they’re in for an incredible, if not rowdy, weekend at the races for reasons we all know. Warm summer weather, thousands of fans revved up on light beer and patriotism, and riders who know that the perfectly groomed track will entice them to hold it wide open.
The Amateur Moto Combine intends to give young riders and their supporters an accurate look at what race day is like for the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. Friday's schedule at RedBud included coaching advice from retired champions, timed practice sessions to learn the track, and two motos on a similar timetable (limited breaks) to the pros. Star Racing's crew of young wrenches got some hurried work experience, too, as they had to replace Haiden Deegan's holeshot device on the starting line before the card turned sideways.
Chance Hymas had an eventful day at the Combine. Crashes kept the Team Honda HRC rider from finishing with the lead group, as he ran as high as second in Moto One before going down, then climbed back from a first-turn crash in Moto Two to fourth. Although the 11-4 scores look rough on paper, they don't mention the A Class rider's speed or late-race intensity.
Haiden Deegan was the big winner of the Combine. The Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider claimed the overall with dominant 1-1 scores in the motos, further proof that the amateur moto talent pool is deep and filled with skilled youngsters. Deegan will line up in B Class at the Ranch in August.
The Combine's structure puts competitors from different elite amateur classes on the track all at once, from A Class to Schoolboy, which makes for a mix of bikes. Casey Cochran was among the few on a 125 two-stroke, but he held his own against others on four-strokes for 12-3 scores and fifth overall.
Keep an eye on Caden Braswell through the summer months. The TLD/GASGAS-backed A Class rider has lined up everywhere in the last few weeks, from Mammoth to RedBud, and was in a long duel with Daxton Bennick in the second moto until late issues dropped him back. A run of 5-8 results put him sixth overall.
Daxton Bennick is another name we've heard for years. The KTM-backed rider and his North Carolina practice track were featured in one installment of MOTO: THE MOVIE, and he's stacked up hardware from big amateur races around the country. A tenth in Moto One was a rough start to the day, but Bennick rebounded with a runner-up finish in Moto Two and ended the day second overall.
Mark Fineis rounded out the podium at the Combine thanks to 4-6 finishes. An Indiana native supported by KTM, Fineis has built a reputation on enormous efforts at important events, including come-from-behind charges and scrappy battles with teenage rivals.
Has Chase Sexton ever seen a 1-800 Collect commercial, let alone used it to make a call? The collect calling service's advertising campaigns in the 1990s were a tremendous spend on TV ads/celebrity endorsers/swag/sponsorship of Factory Honda that cost millions and made it the leader in the category. But the telecommunications industry was already undergoing big changes in 1999 (when Sexton was born), and parent company MCI went bankrupt three years later. Nevertheless, you can still use 1-800 Collect, and a five-minute call starts at $29.99.
Not the best way to begin a day. Chad Saultz came to a steamy stop in this turn during the first session of Timed Qualifying. Unfortunately, the Illinois rider faced other troubles during the morning and could not qualify for the 40-man gate.
Yes, it's real.
Ryder DiFrancesco and Team Green made use of AMA Pro Racing's rule that allows A Class riders the chance to line up for a National, earn no more than forty points, and maintain amateur eligibility for the big event at the Ranch later in the summer. Ryder D worked under the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki tent for the weekend, which required a change from Renen and 6D to Fox Racing and Bell, and was on the race-spec KX250. The young prodigy experienced the highs (laps at the front in Moto Two) and lows (second turn crash in Moto One) on his way to 14-12 scores and ended up thirteenth overall. Per Ryder, the current plan is to race Spring Creek, go to his last Loretta Lynn's, and then commit to pro racing full-time at Unadilla.
It was good to see Enzo Lopes back on the starting line. The popular rider returned to Brazil shortly after the Supercross finale, a break that gave him time to sort out complications from an arm injury and to visit with his family. Lopes went 15-18 for sixteenth overall in the 250 Class at RedBud, fair results considering a recent lack of seat time, then capped off the weekend with a SX-only contract extension at CLUBMX.
Whole lot of red, white, and blue.
Be on the lookout for new gear at the next few races, especially Washougal and Unadilla. Alpinestars put the Lawrence brothers in pieces from their 2023 line at RedBud, which looks to be very inspired by the Italian company's auto racing division. MX gear has become a significant segment for Astars in the last few years, thanks to a distribution deal with WPS.
RedBud was not Justin Cooper's best day at the races, even if it was 7-9 scores for seventh. Although it's been a tough season, not all is lost. He has a qualifying average of 4.2 (third-best in the 250 Class), has aced three holeshots, led nine laps, and continues to be one of the five fastest guys on the small-bore bike. The Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider is also one of the main candidates for the MX2 spot on Team USA at the Motocross of Nations. How these next few races go will be big, both for MXON consideration and the rider's season.
We've seen plenty of requests for Christian Craig to be on the 250 for MXON. It's not a bad idea, considering CC's experience on the YZ250F, but his size compared to others on the line could be a factor, especially against the younger and smaller Europeans. Craig and Ryan Dungey had another round of duels at RedBud, where Dungey's 6-5 bested Craig's 5-6 in the overall results (Dungey got sixth, Craig got seventh).
Lots of trust in the front-end. Seth Hammaker has shown plenty of promise in recent rounds and his RedBud effort, which included a crash, a stop in the work area during Moto Two, and a charge back to fifteenth place. The Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider is becoming a fast favorite for success in 2023.
Eli Tomac's HWYW interview had plenty of good quotes. Here's what he said about the drive out of the gate in Moto One: "I was able to holeshot. Surprising for Eli Tomac, right? It was a good gate. I liked that gate because it was out of the mix of everyone. I knew that the better guys would line up and pile inside, so I gave myself some breathing room. And it had great dirt."
Seeing Tomac come around the perfectly groomed sweeper turn at full speed on lap two was pretty sweet. Like we've said so many times in the past two years, enjoy the on-track action now because there's about to be a turnover of talent in the 450 Class, especially outdoors. Tomac told us in HWYW, yes, this is probably his last summer.
Max Anstie and the Fire Power Honda team started their limited engagement on the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship at RedBud, which was the team's US outdoor debut and Anstie's on a Honda CRF450R. The idea that Anstie can run with the best in the world was once again demonstrated in Michigan, as he clicked off the seventh-fastest lap of the morning practice and ran among the top ten during 450 Moto One until an internal issue caused the engine to give out. The team told us they remedied the problem with some help from Team Honda HRC and are ready for another shot at Southwick.
Joey Savatgy had a career-best run in 450 Moto One. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider got to the front as soon as the gate dropped, latched onto Eli Tomac, and put plenty of space between himself and the rest of the pack. That buffer came in handy late in the race, when Savatgy only had to contend with Chase Sexton for spots on the podium.
Benny Roost, example one
Ryan Dungey told us that he expects the back-half of the Pro Motocross tour to be much better for himself and Red Bull KTM. RD5 said working on the 450 SX-F took lots of time, but the bulk of the work should be done by now, a notion that we tend to agree with considering the softer East Coast dirt the series is now racing on. Still in on the Millville win?
Benny Roost, example two
There's a level of respect among many riders in the pit area right now. Sure, there's some tension that's caused by ongoing rivalries, but many guys can put things into perspective quickly and praise their competitors. We enjoyed hearing Sexton and Savatgy recap their rides after Moto One, then Sexton and Tomac congratulate each other as the two passed by on the podium.
Five young riders, stacked up and wide open next to a cheering crowd. The future of pro motocross looks good.
Another good ride by Levi Kitchen, who went 9-4 for fifth overall. Have you looked at the championship standings lately? Kitchen is currently fifth in the rankings with 145 points, down fourteen to teammate Justin Cooper but four ahead of Michael Mosiman. Who is eager to see the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider at Washougal?
Battling. We were completely unaware of the bike issues Jett Lawrence was going through when the leaders flew by in 250 Moto One; we never saw smoke from our vantage point and just thought that the back and forth was part of the sibling spectacle...
Stilez Robertson is getting the hang of things. The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider scored a surprise, well-earned, career-first podium at RedBud. Robertson told us after the race that he went the wrong way with things on the white bike earlier in the summer but a switch to the current package, including parts on the rear-end, is close to what he used during his preseason prep. So again, it will be interesting to see if there's a significant uptick in KTM-Husqvarna results now that the series is on the softer East Coast dirt.
It all ended a few moments later, though, when Jett's bike gave out, and he coasted to the water truck lane. The championship implications of this moment were felt immediately and should make for an interesting second part of the summer.
Props to Team Honda HRC for the quick actions that got the bike and rider back to the rig without a hint of panic. Hunter told us that his engine was also within a few laps of letting go, which required a swap between motos. Seriously, the few extra minutes Honda got to work on Jett's bike had to have helped when it came to Hunter's repairs.
We figured Jo Shimoda would win a moto this summer; we just didn't know when. The Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider is one of the best 250 Class competitors, evident in the untallied but very high number of passes he's made so far, but he was on another level at RedBud. A persistent push to stay with the Lawrence brothers paid off with a Moto One win, followed by a trademark come-from-behind ride in Moto Two earned Shimoda the first outdoor wins of his career and the first AMA Pro Motocross win for a Japanese-born rider.
Inviting looking but intimidating all at once. Every rider we talked to praised the track prep at RedBud this year, a mixture of Michigan dirt and sand that maintained moisture despite warm weather and constant sun. How will it be in late September? That's on everyone's minds already.
Lap Seven Action in 450 Moto Two.
Lap Eleven Action in 450 Moto Two.
It's hard to imagine a more significant contrast in riding styles or racing tactics than these two. Ryan Dungey and Justin Barcia linked up in 450 Moto Two, a battle that saw plenty of pass attempts, some closer than others, and an intensity level that in any other era would be for a championship. This year, it's for a spot in the top five.
Things are about to get real for Chase Sexton in this championship. The Team Honda HRC rider got caught up with Jason Anderson in 450 Moto Two, a minor incident that prompted Sexton to wick it up in the last fifteen minutes and feel, in his words, "a little like Eli." We hope these two link up for a head-to-head battle very soon.
Another W for ET. The 1-1 run at RedBud chopped Sexton's advantage in the standings down to just seven points, a single-digit figure that could easily change in just one moto. Tomac told us that the championship switch has been flipped and that he'll be focused on that goal through the middle of the season.
BamBam on the box. As we mentioned in a past Kickstart, the TLD team put a lot of work into Barcia getting third overall in the SX championship, a goal that they ultimately fell short of and that hampered their outdoor prep. But with a few races under his belt, a move back to Florida, some continued testing on the red bike, and a conscious effort to cut back on revs, Barcia went 8-3 for third overall.
Ty Masterpool was the talk of the 250 Class at RedBud. A midseason split with the AEO team means the Texas racer is a full privateer, and he showed up to round six on an unstickered, hard-ridden 250 SX-F. Ty's time at the front was impressive, especially considering the lack of race time he's had as a pro, but a nervous stomach before moto caused him to throw up all of his hydration blend and he flamed out in the last leg of the race. Masterpool intends to line up for the rest of the summer on his own.
True grit from RJ Hampshire. We spotted the blood on the back of his jersey during 250 Moto Two, the result of his early pile-up with Shimoda, Cooper, and a few other potential front-runners, but the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider stayed out, scored a sixth place result, and ended the day fourth overall.
Michael Antonovich has a wealth of experience with over 10 years of moto-journalism under his belt. A lifelong racing enthusiast and rider, Anton is the Editor of Swapmoto Live and lives to be at the race track.